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shootDr Porsuk was annoyed to be disturbed when he’d left specific instructions that nothing of the sort should happen.

“But, doctor,” said the nurse, “It’s Squirrel. You must come see immediately.”

The doctor made a mental note to have the nurse’s pay docked if the news she’d brought turned out to be routine as he followed her through the corridors.

Squirrel, or ‘Miss U Squirrel’ as she was known in the register, was found six months ago in an abandoned quarry with severe head injuries. She was unconscious. There were no forms of transportation nearby; the nearest town was several hour’s walk away. Her identity tattoo had been lazered off and she carried no electronic devices . The only clue to her origins or identity was a charm bracelet with only one charm remaining, a squirrel, and that was how she became Unknown Squirrel. The authorities placed her in the care of the hospital while investigations continued. For every day of those six months she had lain in a coma, breathing but unresponsive. Until today.

Even before he entered the room Dr Porsuk could tell that something miraculous had happened. Squirrel lay as she had lain every other time the doctor had done his rounds. She was remarkably healthy, except for the cranial injuries and these had healed themselves fairly well. Her eyes were closed; her arms collapsed and impassive as ever, but she was speaking.

Her voice was clear and precise, as if she was repeating a checklist, “15 degrees azimuth. Level at 35,000. Burn rate 68 over 440. Open shutters 10, 10, 23. Refab. 11cc’s per MCU. Don’t forget to breathe…”

Her voice droned on, barely pausing for breath. She was unresponsive as the doctor pried open her eyelids and flashed light into the empty space beyond.

“What does it mean?” he asked no one in particular.

“She was giving the weather report a few moments ago, doctor. That’s why I called you. Today’s weather: I remembered from hearing it on the way in this morning.”

Irritated, the doctor waved the nurse to silence and concentrated on the coma patient’s monologue. After another minute or two his eyes widened. He reached for his phone and stroked up a recorder. Holding it to squirrel’s mouth he captured what she said for another five minutes and then dashed from the room.

Dr Porsuk’s brother-in-law was settling in to a quiet afternoon of paperwork at the 64th Flugzeugbatterie where he commanded the group with calmness and patience. Protecting the capital was a great honour, but unlike many of his compatriots did not relish the idea of having to fire his missiles in anger. Let the alien-lovers stay on their side of the border and we will stay on ours, he thought. These thoughts were shattered when his phone hummed.  Thumbing the answer he was confronted by the outpouring of the agitated husband of his sister.

“Honestly, Lothar. You cannot be serious. I cannot go to alert on the hearsay of a vegetable.”

The blood drained from his face as he heard the recording the doctor replayed.

At 10:04 Inguhaut Central time the 64th Flugzeugbatterie battery sprang to life in what the crew thought was a live fire training exercise. At 10:16, 10:17 and 10:19 hypersonic Bloodhound missiles shrieked from their housings and arced northwards, matching pace and then pursuing a tracer blip that had not been there at the moment of their launch. At mach 7.5 the missiles had a hard chase after the black shielded raider, but their pre-emptive launch gave them enough of an edge. Detonating almost at the moment they ran out of fuel, fragments from one missile peppered the spy plane.

The Rabbit engine stalled, smoke trailed, and the spy plane lost speed and fell towards the arctic north.

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